Analyzing Mudstone Geometries with X-Ray Diffraction in the Mississippian Fort Payne Formation, Tennessee


  • Austyn Allen


The location of study was near Celina, Tennessee on Highway 52, specifically at latitude 36.53388889, longitude -85.49888889, and elevation 237 meters. The purpose was to collect samples of mudstones in Mississippian-aged channels, mounds, and drapes to see if there was a unique X-ray Diffraction (XRD) signature, which would imply different origins for the mud.
Two samples were collected from each channel, mound, and drape located in the Fort Payne Formation to be used in the analysis. The samples were left to dry from any water content present in the outcrop, finely ground using a ceramic mortar and pestle, and analyzed by X-ray Diffraction in bulk packs to determine the average bulk composition. The samples were analyzed with two techniques. The bulk packs were with the parameters flat 4.8 to 85 degrees. The glass slide samples, used to identify the clays, were created using 50 grams of a sample, mixed over an hour with 500 milliliters of deionized water, and calgon added for a dispersant. Once processed, the glass slides were run 4 times, under different conditions, within the parameters flat 3.8 to 55 degrees. The next step is comparing all of our analyzed samples to determine if any unique X-ray Diffraction signatures are present. Future applications of our work could focus on using X-ray Diffraction techniques on logging samples to identify if the mudstone is the same layer or layers that we have measured in the Fort Payne Formation outcrops."
"Soft tissue preservation in dinosaur fossils is relatively rare although a few examples have been found (Davis, 2014). We recovered a juvenile hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana with both skin impressions and potential preservation of intervertebral disks. Thin sections across original skin impressions have a dark, apparently organic rich, carbonaceous layer where skin would have been present in the original animal. This strongly suggests that the soft tissue was mineralized and preserved. However, we were unable to optically image cell boundaries similar to those figured by Manning, et al, (2009) that might demonstrate the presence of mineral cements that might outline the original cell boundaries. Apparently, the tissues in our hadrosaur were too decomposed to preserve such fine detail.
Thin sections of the disks that occur between vertebrae are composed of fine-grained sandstone, which filled in the spaces between the vertebrae. Although this is a process that is not completely understood, it is clear that the skeleton lacks the presence of mineralized cartilage. The dark colored spots in the disks may, however, represent bits of cartilage material that has largely decomposed into carbonaceous material.
Of the three types of preservation of dinosaurs suggested by Schweitzer (2012) our specimens has definite preserved impressions, possible compressions, but so far we have been unable to demonstrate preservation of three dimensional permineralized tissue."
The Late Mississippian represents a time when Earth was thought to be an icehouse and was experiencing eustatic sea level changes similar to today. While there’s been a wealth of research done in the western equatorial Pangea for the Late Carboniferous and Permian, this study of the Pennington Formation, Tennessee, offers an opportunity to study less focused upon terrestrial early Carboniferous paleoenvironments from central equatorial Pangea, including the effects of diagenesis on paleoenvironmental proxies employed for paleosol research. New fieldwork of an outcrop outside Sparta, TN shows interbedded limestone and mudstone layers including four paleosol profiles that have been described and analyzed for their principle clay mineralogy. The paleosols preserve typical vertic features including slickensides, mukkara and wedge-shaped peds as well as low chroma color and are thus gleyed Vertisols. The gleyed nature of these paleosols is either the result of forming under waterlogged conditions seen today in soils forming proximal to shorelines or the result of diagenesis associated with sea level rising. The presence of Vertisols intercalated between limestones suggests a persistent influence of glacioeustacy in conjunction with highly seasonal climates during base-level lowstands and soil development which gave rise to pedoturbation and the characteristic suite of vertic morphologies seen in outcrop. Clay mineralogy dominated by illite and vermiculite suggests burial diagenesis. This contrasts sites from the upper Pennsylvanian which contain evidence for eustatic sea level change but are suggestive of more ever-wet conditions and recorded by the common occurrence of thick coal layers atop mineral-dominated paleosol profiles.
Terraced fans are a relatively rare subset of fan-shaped features on Mars that display radial, stepped topography and concave-up profiles. This study focuses on the Camichel Crater fan located in the Xanthe Terra region. Features common on terraced fans are boulders, large rocky detrital fragments visible in high-resolution images. Hypotheses for boulder origins include: (1) impact processes; (2) erosion of steep slopes; (3) preferential removal of finer-grained material through erosion; (4) transport via laminar debris flows; and/or (5) transport via turbulent flood events. The purpose of this project is to conduct high-resolution geologic mapping and test competing hypotheses by analyzing boulder distributions on the fan surface. High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images were used to evaluate small-scale features on the fan surface. HiRISE images have a resolution of 0.3 to 0.6 m/pixel; thus, boulders with a diameter of > 0.8 m were mapped in ArcGIS Pro at a scale of 1:3,400. Geologic mapping to identify depositional units was conducted at a scale of 1:4,000. Results show boulders can be linked to erosional and depositional processes. Boulders mapped on the Camichel Crater fan are primarily associated with steep topographic scarps adjacent to feeder channel walls or terrace edges, likely a result of over-steepening and erosion. In distal fan units, however, high boulder distributions in the light-toned unit suggest flow competence and boulder transport during deposition. Future work will compare patterns to boulder distribution patterns in terrestrial fan settings such as alluvial fans and Gilbert-type deltas.
A comparison of water quality was conducted during October 2019 on an agricultural watershed and a forested watershed, both located in northern middle Tennessee and a small portion of one in southern Kentucky. The Little Trace Creek watershed (HUC-12-051100020101) is approximately 25,426 acres and 61% agriculture, mostly cattle and poultry operations. The Jennings Creek watershed (HUC-12-051301060302) is approximately 36,075 acres and 84% forested. The land use data was collected from the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium Website. Conductivity and dissolved oxygen were measured using a YSI® Professional Plus Multiparameter Meter on three separate occasions on three separate streams within each watershed. The data indicates a noticeable difference in water quality between these two watersheds. The dissolved oxygen measurements showed more variation in the agricultural watershed (SD of 2.2) than in the forested watershed (SD of 0.5). The forested watershed showed a higher average dissolved oxygen level at 7.61 mg/l than the agricultural watershed at 7.23 mg/l. The conductivity was also more variable for the agricultural watershed (SD of 14.1) than the forested watershed (SD of 7.4). The agricultural watershed had an overall average conductivity of 276.2 µs/cm as opposed to the forested watershed at 253.4 µs/cm. One stream in the agricultural watershed stream had a lower average dissolved oxygen at 5.21mg/l, which is close to the minimum value of 5.0 mg/l necessary for good water quality. Further research could determine the causation of the lower dissolved oxygen.
Research is split on background music’s impact on cognitive functioning. Previous research has shown that background music has negative effects on cognitive performance, specifically in the areas of reading comprehension (Chou, 2010; Kämpfe et al., 2011; Patston & Tippett 2011). Musicians have been shown to perform worse on reading comprehension in the presence of music, but with an advantage still present over non-musicians (Patston & Tippett 2011). The current study aimed to examine the effect of background music of different emotions on reading comprehension. Participants attended an experimental session where background conditions (silence or happy, sad, or scary music) while reading a passage were randomly assigned. Musical training and music emotion recognition scores were examined as covariates. Alexithymia was also measured using a scale created by Preece, Becerra, Robinson, Dandy, and Allan (2018). Preliminary analyses found that musical training was a significant predictor of reading comprehension regardless of background condition. Also, regardless of condition, musically trained participants had significantly higher reading comprehension scores than those with no musical training. The preliminary data indicates that the emotion of a piece of background music has no effect on participants’ ability to comprehend written information. As previous research has shown, musical training is a significant predictor of reading comprehension as musically trained participants did have higher reading comprehension scores than participants with no musical training regardless of background condition. As these results are from preliminary data, further collection of data may yield significant results for other comparisons.
"Several factors influence college students’ academic performance. College counselors’ top three concerns are anxiety, depression, and stress among student clients (LeViness et al., 2018). Saleh et al. (2017) found that life satisfaction, self-esteem, optimism, self-efficacy, and psychological distress were the most important contributors to stress among students. This study will examine if participating in a coloring activity increases academic self-efficacy, and decreases academic stress and anxiety more than the mindful-based breathing exercise among undergraduates.

Students attended an experimental session during which they completed an informed consent form, pretest measures of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Marteau, Theresa, Bekker, & Hilary, 1992), General Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE; Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995), and Academic Stress and Self-Efficacy Scale (ASF; Zajacova, Lynch, & Espenshade, 2005; Zagumny, McPeak, and Burton, 2014). Participants then completed one of three activities, including either a mandala sheet, recorded mindfulness breathing activity, or a true control treatment. Following the activity, participants completed posttest measures in addition to a demographics questionnaire and debriefing form.

The preliminary results indicate that the average age of the participants (8 males & 15 females) was 20.95 (SD = 2.17). The mindfulness activities had similar effects on state anxiety, academic stress, and academic self-efficacy. Interestingly, state anxiety was reduced in males more than in females for both coloring and breathing exercise [F (1, 16) = 4.52, MSE = .05, p = .049]. A larger sample size could provide significant results for other comparisons."
The purpose of this contribution is to convey preliminary results involving the curriculum redesign of a chemical engineering laboratory course through the novel application of the Inquiry-guided Laboratory Manual (IGLM). The context of this curriculum redesign involves a heat transfer laboratory course, which is the first of the transfer science course series offered by the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Tech. The pedagogy of the IGLM is anchored in the innovation-driven learning strategies of the Renaissance Foundry and follows a scaffolding approach for inquiry-guided learning that seeks to provide students with learning experiences related to creativity and problem solving. Specifically, the research question embedded in this research design states: How might the application of the IGLM in a transfer science laboratory course influence student activities related to preparation prior to experimentation? The constructivist framework of this qualitative research design is paired with an inductive approach that applies a thematic analysis with open-coding strategies on data that was gathered from the normal coursework of the laboratory curriculum. The design of this study ensures that the preliminary results and themes will be representative of the data from which they emerge and will be further discussed within the study. Moreover, this contribution addresses the need for continued research-based discussions on the curriculum design of engineering laboratories and data-driven conversation on how to provide holistic learning experiences for engineering students.
"STEM education emerged as a focus for educators and researchers in the United States as more states and schools implement integrated, STEM-driven curricula and instruction in order to improve students’ STEM literacy, critical thinking skills, and 21st century workforce skills (Bybee, 2013). This study used content analysis (Grbich, 2013; Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) to investigate recent trends in STEM education research by analyzing all of the published articles in three international STEM education research journals. The criteria for journal selection were publication origination date, number of articles published, and ability to obtain the journals through student-accessible databases or journal websites. Data included the number and types of STEM subjects, whether or not the STEM subjects were integrated, the date of publication, and the setting and participants. Findings from this study suggest that STEM education research articles tend to focus on two or more STEM silos, with the number of iSTEM education research articles increasing in publication over time. Future research in STEM education should include K–12 settings to complement the work already being performed in higher education settings.

Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.
Grbich, C. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288. doi:10.1177/1049732305276687"
"Research suggests integrating the arts into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum is essential in the recruitment of an interdisciplinary workforce necessary to meet the challenges of the modern world. However, this initiative fails to acknowledge cultural and historical narratives and considerations within academia, a field primarily dominated by interests of atypical western norms with only 22 percent of minority groups represented in the post-secondary setting. Furthermore, to address this representation issue, the intentional integration of multiculturalism is essential. The work presented offers insight into the preliminary stages of a service-learning project born from the STEM Foundry Heritage Fellows program at Tennessee Technological University.

By using the Renaissance Foundry Model, a team of students worked in community and program planning to establish a framework for including multiculturalism into STEM entitled SMARTS: STEM, Multiculturalism, and the Arts. The purpose of this work is to provide an analysis of how the Foundry offered a platform to help the team form this concept. Data from assignments, reflections, and planning will form the basis of this analysis. Understanding how the Foundry can transform student learning to help identify and address complex issues like the lack of multiculturalism in STEM is vital to transforming the landscape in these fields. This study will provide recommendations for other community-based learning projects that are geared toward integrating diversity and inclusion into vital conversations surrounding outreach, community interactions, and inclusion in STEM education.





Earth Sciences